The three cities named in this panel were key destinations for the hundreds of thousands of black southerners who left their homes in search of greater economic opportunity and social equality in the North. This mass exodus, known as the Great Migration, led to one of the greatest demographic transformations in United States history. Between the beginning of the twentieth century and 1970, more than six million African Americans moved from the overwhelmingly rural South to the cities of the North, West, and Midwest. As these populations reinvented themselves as urban and northern, the nation’s profile was fundamentally altered, as were the composition of its cities, political priorities, and cultural expressions, from music to literature to food.
Besides New York, Chicago received the most migrants of any American city and subsequently thrived as a center of African-American culture. At the turn of the twentieth century, black residents made up less than two percent of the population, but between 1910 and 1920 their numbers swelled by one hundred and fifty percent. Many of the new arrivals moved to a part of the city’s South Side dubbed Bronzeville by the local black press.